RaPAL

Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

Judy McGuire

Judy McGuire, TasTAFE

Boulder Hopping

My name is Jasmine and I have lived in Tasmania all my life. I have diabetes and I live near the beach with my partner and two cats. This story is my story about my contribution to resilience; where, what, how and why. So please join me.

I was born in 1968, in the Royal Hobart Hospital and I had two younger brothers who I did not know about until later on in life. I was placed into foster care at the age of three years. I was then placed into a foster home and I lived there until I was twelve years old. It was then that I was returned to my biological family. The situation in my foster home was that my foster parents had their own daughter who was a year older than me. It happened sometimes that I was mean to her even though she was always lovely to me. After I had been with them for two years they adopted twin girls who became my sisters. In the end I had three sisters on my foster parents’ side and two brothers on my biological side.

When I returned to my mother and brothers, she had remarried. I found that I did not really get on with her very well. After a few years of living there, it was obvious to me that this situation was why I had gone into care in the first place. My mother was very abusive towards her children. I was kicked out of home because of my sexuality. I lived on the street where I had to learn how to defend myself or get bashed up. It was at this time that, unfortunately, I got into drugs and alcohol and joined up with some friends who encouraged me in my drug use. It was at this time that I did not want anything to do with my mother.

I felt I was a failure and my attitude to life had changed but I did not know how. I did not really care for anyone. I did not even like myself. Life was a bit of a joke for me and I did not want to deal with my life in general and I used people to get what I wanted.

One of the ways I tried to break out of this was by being involved with the Army Reserves here in Hobart. The end result of all of this was to cause communication breakdowns between myself and other people around me. I then spent a lot of years just stuffing around and did not really achieve anything in my life or my state of mind. There were times when I did go forward but I continually got knocked down and I could not help myself or the others who were around me.

I think the worst time of my life was getting into trouble with the law and not realising that I had done anything wrong. I was thirty-seven years old and lived in Launceston at the time. It was at this time that I spent six months in prison and lost my job and everything I owned and my friends. Most importantly, it was at this time that I lost my respect for myself and life in general. I knew before I went to prison that I was suffering from depression and then later on I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The one good thing about my time in prison was that it did teach me that I had to take responsibility for my own actions. I did learn from this and try and move forward on my release. I was able to stay at my foster dad’s place. This was not easy for me and I found this hard and I did not really cope very well. I think this was because I was still having things that came up in prison pressing on my mind. One example of this is that when it was medication time we had to line up for it and I would relive this in my mind. Another example would be when I remember the feeling of how I reacted to the wakeup call or to lockdown at 6.50pm every night. I would remember how it felt hearing the cries of other inmates who had just come in or who were just having a bad day.

My life only started to change for the better when I began to look at study as an option in my life. My motivation to come back to study was to further my education. I knew for some time that I needed help with my maths and English. It was a great help but the biggest benefit was from doing Certificate IV in Mental Health. This is an area that I have been passionate about because of my experience of living with PTSD. For a long time I have had to deal with symptoms and signs of this. By doing the certificate I have been helped a lot. It helped me to come to terms with the shock when I found out (when I was thirty-eight years old) that my father had taken his own life. I could not really understand this but I learnt to talk about my issues as I wanted to get on with my life. I talked about my PTSD in my mental health course and this showed me how valuable it was to talk about it. I also had the strong motivation that I would not be a nobody. I could then acknowledge my difficulties and really move forward. This is the heart of the matter for me because it is that resilience and getting back self-esteem through counselling that has given me a renewed life. I now want to learn and seek help to find out why and what I did to end up in prison. In this way I have gained self-esteem and I can now take one day at a time and leave behind my feelings of shame.

When I was a young girl my actual dream was to be an Australian soccer player: not surprisingly that went pear shaped. It was only when reading my welfare files when I was twenty years old that I decided that I wanted to be a social worker. It was different issues in my life which turned that upside down. I had no support from family, or love or support or encouragement in my life. It was hard and I thought I would just turn out like my mother.

My setbacks in my life were difficult such as prison, self-doubt and low self-esteem. When I went to prison the things that really stood out for me were the things I mentioned before. The things that I knew I needed were like a job, a relationship with family, friends, my car, all my belongings and my dignity.

I can see now that self-talk played a big part in my setbacks. I felt everyone around me was watching and I could not get through that. Even when people said that I was okay, I had a real negative vibe around me. It showed up because I did not have a lot of friends around me any more. I was still feeling ashamed and I continued to see my counsellor and do workshops on how to cope with things that really pissed me off. I worked on how to deal with what I did and how to move forward from the situation I was in.

Well, I did overcome my setbacks. I took responsibility for my own actions. I took one day at a time. I learnt to love me. I found that others were changing my own attitude. I had a willingness to move on. In time I enrolled in a course and sought some counselling and showed a willingness to move on with my life.

By using the tools I had learnt in counselling and with self-talk involved, I began to communicate with my family who wanted to be around me. It was then that I started to move forward by respecting myself and encouraging myself to be honest with myself and others. It was by putting myself first and loving those around me that I could stay focused and not get back in the wrong mind set again like before.

I have come a long way and I continue to go forward now more than backwards in my life. It’s now 2015 and I have achieved so much like not getting into trouble with the law. That is a thing of the past now. Now that is how it is going to stay this year and always. I have managed to do a Certificate in Mental Health First Aid and Certificate IV in Mental Health and maths and English through TAFE. I have been a volunteer with St John Ambulance and a driver also. I also now have a permanent relationship. My goal is to go to university next year. One day I will be doing what I always wanted to do, working as a social worker.

I have applied for university and I am waiting to hear back but I have put it in motion. So if you’re thinking about doing training or education: stop procrastinating and get on with it!

“Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.”

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